Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: Slot Waivers are Back, JetBlue’s Amsterdam Summer Vacation, More

Cranky Weekly Review

Return Counter is Open: FAA to Allow Slot Returns

The FAA announced it is issuing a limited waiver to permit carriers to return slots at three airports — New York/LGA, New York/JFK, and Washington/National — for the summer due to air traffic control staffing issues in the northeast.  The idea is a pre-emptive attempt by the government to limit delays and disruptions due to ATC shortages in the nation’s busiest air travel corridor by pushing the burden on to airlines to make the hard decisions.

Airlines can turn in up to 10% of their slots at LGA and JFK, and any other impacted slots at DCA for the period of May 15 to September 15. The waiver also applies to Newark, which is not slot-controlled, but timing-controlled – allowing airlines to also return up to 10% of their approved timings for the same summer period.

The idea is for airlines to help solve the government-made problem of not having enough air traffic controllers by not flying that 28th daily flight from Newark to DC or really, ANY flight from LaGuardia to Hartford, Delta.

Airlines are required to notify the FAA about what slots or timings they plan to return by April 30 and are asked to include bottle of Secretary Pete’s favorite bourbon with the request. Once the slots turn back into pumpkins on September 15 and go back into effect, any leftover booze will be returned to the airline.

JetBlue Turning Orange

JetBlue Airways finally secured slots to complete its European trifecta and begin service to Amsterdam from both Boston and New York/JFK.  The carrier unsuccessfully tried to garner Schiphol slots for several months to no avail — until now.

JetBlue first missed out on scooping Aeroflot’s AMS slots last fall, and then at taking over shuttered carrier Flybe’s slots earlier this year. After threatening to sue the Dutch government over antitrust concerns, JetBlue finally succeeding in receiving access to the airport this week.  So that’s the good news. The bad news is that the slots are only valid for summer 2023, beginning next week and going through October.

The airport is making no guarantees that the carrier will have access beyond this summer, leaving JetBlue with only short-time access.  Then again, who wants to go to Amsterdam in the winter anyway? Also, the times offered are…bad. The timings worked for Flybe operating to the UK, but for transatlantic flights, Flybe’s 3 p.m. arrival slot means a 1 a.m. departure from the U.S. east coast.

JetBlue also has aircraft concerns as it wants to operate this and its new Paris routes on the A321LR, but delivery delays from Airbus put that in jeopardy as well. It could audible to its A321neo with Mint up front for the time being, but it would have to accept a lesser product on the other side of the curtain as these planes do not have ovens in economy or seat belts unless passengers ask very nicely.

Just What We Needed:  A New Airline from Lufthansa

It’s been at least several weeks since Lufthansa Group announced a new airline, but fear not, as it has now introduced its newest incarnation: City Airlines, a Munich-based regional carrier expected to begin flying this summer.

The carrier is actually ready to go now, but it’s going to take until at least the summer for it to pass LH’s initiation test of being able to name every other Lufthansa Group airline.

City Airlines will likely operate an all A319 fleet while flying short and medium-haul markets from MUC. Lufthansa hasn’t announced routes for the new airline yet, presumably because it’s still figuring out where all its various airlines fly and where it needs this one to go.

In order to find pilots to fly its planes, Lufthansa CEO Carston Spohr said he expects to turn to former Germanwings pilots who lost their jobs when the airline shutdown in the early days of the pandemic in 2020. As for flight attendants and other staff, the new airline is expected to open its office doors sometime this spring and see who happens to wander in.

And for those who took the LH Group initiation quiz, here are the answers as of this morning (they’ve probably changed since then):

  • Air Dolomiti
  • Austrian Airlines
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Eurowings
  • Eurowings Europe
  • Eurowings Discover
  • Lufthansa
  • Lufthansa Cargo
  • Lufthansa CityLine
  • Swiss International Air Lines
  • Edelweiss Air
  • AeroLogic (50%)
  • SunExpress (50%)

United Says Pigs Air Taxis will Fly by 2025

United Airlines says it will be ready to provide air taxi service to its hub at Chicago/O’Hare airport along with partner Archer Aviation by as early as 2025.  The service will operate from Chicago’s West Loop and is timed to inaugurate just as construction begins on Chicago’s Kennedy Expressway, which is expected to cause major delays on top of the regular major delays driving to and from ORD.

The air taxi is expected to operate to and from Vertiport Chicago and take about 10 minutes to and from the airport, as opposed to the 60 minute or greater drive from the same spot. The eVTOL aircraft being used is expected to accommodate up to five people – four passengers and a pilot, provided it is certified by the FAA at the end of next year, the thought of which is pretty laughable in its own right.

Pricing has not been announced but is expected to be in the $150 range per direction.  Despite a max of just four passengers per flight, United expects to offer buy-ups for priority boarding and priority seating to monetize the project.  One seat of the four will be chosen at random to be called first class, with another seat chosen to be Economy Plus.  The other two will be just United Economy, and despite no difference in the four seats, the carrier expects heavy competition for the premium options from points and miles bloggers.

Basic economy passengers will be provided the opportunity to use the service, but will only be granted seating on the outside of the aircraft with a handle to hold onto during flight.  The carrier has not yet decided on a nonrev policy for staff but is expected to come up with a policy that excites no one and causes nothing but confusion between various unions and employee groups.

FAA Officially Comes Out Against Runway Incursions

The FAA released an “aviation safety call to action” on Wednesday, telling airlines to “reinforce adherence to published processes and procedures” in an effort to stop the recent rash of close calls and near-misses on runways across the country.

The federal government is stepping in after yet another close call between two aircraft on the ground  just became public, stemming from an incident on January 12 in Baltimore. In this incident, the driver of an emergency vehicle crossed a runway without ATC permission and nearly collided with a plane on its takeoff roll.

It’s a fairly rare case for the FAA to take the step of issuing an aviation safety call to action, with this being just its second this year, following three in 2022 – all of which addressed a specific issue as opposed to this one addressing incidents that have taken places at multiple airports with several different airlines.

  • Air France and KLM moved back home to Terminal 4 at London/Heathrow on Thursday. Their former neighbors in T3 threw a memorable going away party on Wednesday night.
  • Air HongKong is retiring its entire A300F fleet of aircraft by the end of next year in a decision that continues to reverberate throughout the entire industry.
  • Air Tahiti Nui is adding a continuation to Paris on its Papeete – Seattle service while also extending the service to year-round, beginning June 13.
  • Alliance Airlines takeover by Qantas has been delayed again by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
  • Condor is displaying the lengths it’ll go to get stronger by beginning 2x weekly service from Frankfurt to Hangzhou (HGH).
  • Eastar Jet plans to fly 10 B737s by the end of the year even if it has to steal them from an unsuspecting rival carrier in the middle of the night.
  • El Al is a step closer to beginning service between Tel Aviv and Melbourne after Victorian government officials agreed to fund Bar and Bat-Mitzvahs for any kangaroos in the state who express interest.
  • Etihad added three new interline partners: Austrian, Airlink, and Philippine Airlines while resuming an interline agreement with Biman Bangladesh and resuming codeshares with Air Seychelles and ITA.
  • Finnair is resuming service to Osaka this Sunday after taking a one-year break on the route.
  • JAL reached an agreement with Boeing to purchase 21 B737 MAX aircraft. Delivery of the aircraft is expected to begin in 2026. It also operated the first nonstop passenger flight between Japan and Miami.
  • JetSMART wisely pulled out from a potential purchase of Ultra Air.
  • Jetstar may or may not have tased a passengers for swapping seats with another passenger.
  • Korean will have to wait at least another month for a decision from the European Commission on its takeover of Asiana.
  • LATAM is enjoying life out of bankruptcy, reporting a profitable Q4.
  • Lufthansa will begin regular A380 service on June 1, operating between Munich and Boston, then adding New York/JFK from Munich on July 4.
  • Oman Air is leasing a portion of its slots at Dubai to both FitsAir and US-Bangla Airlines for the summer. As of press time, we are still working to confirm that one or both of those are real airlines.
  • Philippine Airlines plans to have all of its aircraft out of storage and flying again by the end of the year.
  • Qantas says its upgrading its premium class menus to offer “bigger and better menu selections.” When polled about the decision, most Qantas customers said they preferred the carrier focus on upgrading the food and not the menu, as the quality of the menu isn’t nearly as important as the food.
  • Ryanair resumed negotiations with Boeing over a potential new aircraft order. It’s been reported that the two sides agreed on the parameters for the negotiation to discuss the parameters for the actual negotiations.
  • Southwest is really putting the squeeze on its pilots, as it’s now outsourcing flight deck duties to passengers to save on labor costs.
  • Sun Country is adding service to both Branson and Salt Lake City from its Minneapolis/St Paul hub.
  • Transavia is wet-leasing an A320-200 from Avion Express for the summer. Stay tuned to the Cranky Weekly Review for more on this developing story.
  • Turkish opened a new lounge at JFK’s Terminal 1. The lounge is about 4,600 square feet and can handle up to 140 guests. It features Turkish specialties including Turkish coffee, or as they call it in Turkey, coffee.
  • UPS will add two new B747-8 freighters to its fleet next year, provided they don’t get lost in transit.
  • Vietnam Airlines was forced to fire four flight attendants for a minor breach of protocol when they were caught smuggling drugs from Paris in toothpaste tubes in their luggage.
  • WestJet finally received certification for its B737-800 freighter to begin service for its cargo division.

I opened my water bill and my electric bill at the same time today, and boy was I shocked.

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11 comments on “Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: Slot Waivers are Back, JetBlue’s Amsterdam Summer Vacation, More

  1. With travel demand spiking during the summer, which airlines does the FAA think are going to turn in slots in NY or DC? LGA to Harford is used in Q1 or Q4 when demand is weak. It has been a year since the summer travel meltdown, surprised the FAA hasn’t been able to solve its staffing issues, especially when it is one of the highest paid salaries in the US govt with great benefits. Maybe the FAA could extend retirement age with waivers and temporarily rehire staff for the summer months. I can’t imagine there is a significant difference between the performance between a 56 and 57 year old controller.

  2. NYC (JFK/LGA/EWR) to WDC (IAD/DCA/BWI) has 72 nonstops on Monday April 10th.

    Yeah, that’s a bit excessive.

  3. There are actually 2 airlines called Eurowings Europe owned by Lufthansa. There is the (almost closed) Austria-based airline called Eurowings Europe GmbH and a new Malta-based airline called Eurowings Europe Ltd

  4. So United is going to attempt what Chicago Helicopter Airways did between 1956-1974? But with 4/5 Pax? UA can do better imo

    Chicago Helicopter Airways served ORD (O’Hare), MDW (Midway), former CGX (Meigs), Gary (GYY) and Winnetka, IL (Northern Suburb)

    1. I have fond memories of landing at Meigs, back in the day. But the mind boggles at the target audience for helicopter transfers out of Gary.

    2. UA — not coincidentally — made this announcement a few days after a three-year reconstruction project began on the Kennedy Expressway.

      For those of you who have not had the pleasure, that’s the highway connecting downtown to O’Hare. Two lanes will be closed at a time — inbound lanes this construction season, the reversible lanes in 2024 and the outbound lanes in 2025. Inbound rush hour travel times have increased dramatically, making this fantasy particularly appealing.

      1. We survived the last JFK Reconstruction back in the 90’s and we’ll survive this one too, and that one was total reconstruction down to dirt/gravel

  5. To what extent will the reconstruction project on the expressway affect train service from ORD to the Loop? If memory serves, the train runs alongside/inside the expressway’s right of way.

    Perhaps it has changed, but the train is (or used to be) a faster & more reliable (in terms of transit time) way to go between ORD & the Loop than taxis/Ubers.

    1. The CTA has actually added service on the Blue Line in anticipation of increased ridership during construction. Based on past expressway projects, there will probably be some minor interference when the lanes closest to the tracks are being worked on.

      But I’m dubious that the CTA can go three years without doing significant work on this part of the Blue Line. They just finished a crossover replacement at Belmont which required closing a mile of the line and using shuttle buses on weekends for three months. And there’s a slow zone between Cumberland and O’Hare that will last indefinitely — track repairs/upgrades (to my knowledge) haven’t even been scheduled.

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